Florida Appeals Court Upholds City’s Veggie-Garden Ban

Songdech Moonta / DreamstimeLate last month, I had the opportunity to discuss my recent book, Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable, before a Seattle-based group of family and consumer scientists, many of them retired. During my talk, I focused in part on a series of city ordinances around the country that ban people from gardening in their own front yards. As almost always happens, these particular laws, among the countless dozens I discuss in the book, raised the most ire among the audience:

“Why would any city do this? How can a city do this? I hope these people are fighting back!”

One of the most egregious examples I highlighted comes from an ongoing case in Miami Shores, Fla. There, Hermine Ricketts and her husband, Laurence Carroll, had kept a nicely manicured vegetable garden in their front yard for nearly two decades. Then, in 2013, Miami Shores adopted an ordinance that banned vegetable gardens, and vowed to fine violators each day they failed to comply with the law.

The couple sued, arguing, as a local CBS affiliate put it, “that the ordinance ran afoul of the Florida Constitution, including that it violated their privacy rights and their right to acquire, possess and protect property.”

Last year, a Florida state court upheld the vegetable-garden ban, on grounds that aesthetic reasons—the city thinks vegetables are ugly—are sufficient justification for a city to ban vegetable gardens.

Last week—a few days after my Seattle talk—a state appeals court ruled in the matter. The court’s words are, at first, buoying. The decision begins with an non-exhaustive list of all the things Miami Shores residents may have in their front yards: “garden gnomes, pink flamingos and trolls…. boats and jet skis…. whatever trees, flowers, shrubs, grasses, fruits and berries they desire.”

Everything save for vegetables.

Surely, thinks the reader, such a ban cannot stand. Tragically, after the appeals court’s ruling, it did just that.

“Though [the plaintiffs’] claims seem compelling, the trial court’s well-reasoned, ten-page final order rejecting the appellants’ claims correctly acknowledged the difficult procedural posture confronting the appellants and dutifully applied controlling precedent,” the appeals court held.

I will concede that the trial court’s order is, in fact, 10 pages in length. Well reasoned? The order simply recommends that the…

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